Hispanics to outnumber whites in California by 2014

Plus how Pacific Islanders changed high school football in Utah

By Nicholas Nehamas

Latin American women prepare lunch orders at a cafe in Los Angeles. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Latin American women prepare lunch orders at a cafe in Los Angeles. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

What happens in the rest of the world has an impact on the daily lives of all Americans. In today’s interconnected world, the barrier between “local” and “global” news is breaking down. Latitude News brings you a round-up of stories from regional outlets that drive that point home.

America’s changing face

California will soon have more Hispanics than whites, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Citing data compiled by California’s Department of Finance, the Chronicle writes that Hispanics will become the state’s largest single ethnic group by 2014 and account for nearly half the population by 2060. Non-white citizens outnumber whites in only two other states: New Mexico (Hispanics) and Hawaii (Asians).

California must ensure its fast growing Hispanic population receives a suitable education, says Mark Martinez, president of California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. “Studies show that higher-education attainment in the Latino community is increasing, but nowhere near where it should be at,” he explains. “If we do not pay attention to education and job growth, then California’s economy will suffer.”

The government study found that California’s ten million Baby Boomers, most of whom are white, are reaching retirement age while Hispanics are entering the prime years for child-bearing. The state currently has a population of 37.9 million. It is expected to reach 52.7 million in 2060, with much of that growth centered in Southern California.

Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, says he’s worried the state’s decaying infrastructure won’t support all those new people, whatever race they are, questioning whether the state will be to able to “build a proper environment to house and manage [its growing] population.”

Pacific Islanders transform Utah’s high school football scene

Five Pacific Islanders suited up in last night’s Super Bowl, but that’s not the only place the Polynesians are making an impact: For decades colleges in Utah have recruited football stars from the Polynesian Islands to add some heft and talent to their teams. After graduation many of those players stayed in Utah. Now their children are growing up. The result, writes the Salt Lake Tribune, has been:

A level of high school football that Utah has never before experienced, and a pool of local Polynesian talent that has transformed the state into a must-stop recruiting ground for colleges across the country.

Mormon missionaries began recruiting converts in the South Pacific in the 1840’s. In the 1960’s, men from Utah came back, this time looking for run-stuffing defensive tackles and giant offensive linemen. The Tribune writes that former Utah coach Ron McBride is considered the “Godfather” of the connection between Utah and Polynesia. More than 100 native Pacific Islanders have played for Utah in the last 50 years.

“I don’t think it’s overstating it,” says Vai Sikahema, a Tongan who helped BYU claim the national championship in 1984, “to say that the impact Samoans and Tongans have had in the state of Utah is not unlike what Dominicans have been to baseball.”

While Texas, California and Florida remain the premier locations for top recruits, Utah is making a name for itself as Division I colleges scour the nation for the largest and most fearsome players. Almost half of Utah’s top 40 high school football prospects this year are of Polynesia descent, according to the Tribune.

And for the many Pacific Islanders who won’t make it to the NFL, playing in college still has a very real benefit: a degree.

“They’re very talented on the football field,” says the mother of one top prospect with a 3.8 GPA, “but we have to remember why we came from so far away: opportunity and education.”

Somali Bantu band from Burlington, VT  in demand across the country

Led by two refugees, a group of Somali Bantu musicians called Walinja perform traditional music for Somali immigrant communities around the U.S. Walinja, based in Burlington, Vermont, chose its name to represent how a people devastated by Somalia’s bloody civil war rebuilt their lives in a far-away land. Their name means “coming together to make something.”

Osman Hassan and Mohamed Bulle, the group’s leaders, were master musicians in Somalia who’ve worked to preserve their culture in the U.S. Now for the first time, reports the Burlington Free Press, Walinja will perform for a non-Somali audience. They’ll be joined at the concert, which is taking place at a college in Vermont, by a local rap group. One of its three members is Mohamed Bulle’s nephew.

Somali Bantus are ethnically, culturally and linguistically distinct from the lighter-skinned tribes of Somalia, according to the Free Press. After many fled Somalia for neighboring countries in 1992 during the civil war, the United States agreed to accept 12,000 Somali Bantu refugees, settling them in cities across the country. Life is different here, writes the Free Press, but the most important things never change:

Now that they are in America, instead of hollowed-out tree trunks, Bulle makes drums out of PVC. Instead of playing their music outside in the sun with plenty of room to dance, Bulle and Hassan play in Bulle’s modest, tapestry-lined living room to avoid the cold Vermont winter.

But the beauty of the instruments and the music has endured. “It’s very important because even my grandfather, my great grandfather used to do this, and there is no way we will leave [music]. Even if we get older and die, I know we will have people who are going to continue, that’s why it is important,” said Bulle.

Click over to the Free Press’ website for a video of Walinja performing their music.